Li Tang (style name Hsi-ku), a native of San-cheng in Ho-yang, served in the Han-lin Academy of Painting under Emperor Hui-tsung (1082-1135; reigned 1101-1125) of the Northern Song. Sometime between 1127 and 1130, after the fall of the Northern Song in 1126, Li escaped to the south, where the government had re-established as the Southern Song (1127-1279). There he re-entered the Painting Academy, which was set up during the period from 1131 and 1162. He went on to receive the title of Gentleman of Complete Loyalty and the prestigious Gold Belt. He also became a Painter-in-Attendance and one of the most dominant figures in Southern Song court painting.
Li Tang's signature appears on a pale spindly background peak to the left of the central mountain in this painting. It reads, "Painted by Li Tang of Ho-yang in spring of the ‘chia-ch'en’ year  of the Hsuan-ho Reign of the Great Song." Here, Li Tang has portrayed the rugged, powerful features of a mountainous scene. Although the central mountain dominates the composition, as seen in other monumental landscape paintings of the Northern Song, the foreground scene presents a more intimate setting that ultimately became popular in Southern Song painting. The rock faces and mountainsides give the appearance of wood chopped with an axe. These strokes later became known as "axe-cut" texture strokes and are often seen in the Southern Song court and professional painting. This type of brushwork is ideal for suggesting the sharp features of rocky landscapes and eroded slopes. As for the puffs of white clouds in the middleground, they not only appear to move (adding a sense of dynamism to the scroll) but also serve as backgrounds for highlighting the rocks and trees in front as well as for dividing the composition. The clouds, furthermore, provide a contrast for the jagged rocks, softening the features of the painting while opening up the composition. Distance is suggested by large pines in the foreground compared to the distant background forests, and a winding rocky path also adds depth and serenity to the composition. Cascades on either side of the central mountain fall from the heights, are broken up by the rock forms, and end up as the rushing stream in the left foreground. The movement of the water stands out so vividly in this placid valley that it almost seems audible--surely something that a master painter like Li Tang would have intended.